Britain: Support the postal workers

Defend the right to have an effective trade union

POSTAL WORKERS across London have been forced to walk out over the last few days. These strikes follow the recent London Weighting strikes and management’s heavy-handed response. Bosses in a few offices tried to impose new working conditions after the first one-day strike. Those offices responded with walk outs.

Following the second one-day London weighting strike, management continued their attempts to impose conditions in more offices, transferring work without agreement and suspending a union rep in west London for allegedly being abusive to a manager. Other walk outs have taken place in north, east and south-east London.

A meeting of London reps on 24 October decided that management had gone too far and agreed to encourage all London offices to strike indefinitely in solidarity.

Management in London think they can take on the CWU and its members as a result of the narrow vote against strike action nationally.

Post office boss Allan Leighton really believes his own propaganda, shown when he infamously said after the national ballot result that: "the world has changed". The bosses have now gone on the offensive. Local managers have clearly been given the green light to take on the union and impose their own terms and conditions on the workforce.

Management’s deliberately provocative actions are meant to force postal workers to walk out depot after depot, so as to have an excuse to introduce all the worst aspects of the Way Forward agreement, imposed on the union four years ago.

This is happening in London now but who knows where next?

What should the union do now?

Everybody knows why the union nationally has said that the unofficial walkouts are nothing to do with them. They want to be able to legally evade action by the bosses’ courts against the union funds. But it is now more than likely that the post office will go to the courts anyway, saying that the union leaders are not doing enough to instruct their members to return to work. This is even though a return to work under those conditions would be on management’s terms, including the introduction of the Way Forward agenda.

For example, these are management’s demands presented to the Dartford membership:

  • Annual leave arrangements will be at the discretion of management.
  • Time off for union duties will be massively cut. This means no union reps available to deal with bullying management.
  • The ending of the second delivery.
  • No prescheduled Christmas overtime payments.
  • Mandatory processing of all work, even if it is diverted from strike-bound offices.

Management have thrown down the gauntlet to the union and its members. No responsible trade union leadership would lightly defy the anti-union laws. We understand the importance of effective union resources, built up over decades by the sacrifice of union members. However, while this must taken into account, it cannot be at the expense of action that can defend the members under attack, or risk a defeat which could take decades to recover from.

The time has come for firm action if the union is to survive the attacks of the most aggressive management in post office history.

  • Oppose management’s provocative attacks.
  • For national strike action to defend effective trade unionism in the post office.
  • Appeal to all trade unions for solidarity action to back the postal workers.

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October 2003